James Donaldson, of N.S. Diamond and Jewelry, dies


Forty-two years ago, when James “Barry” Donaldson decided to open North Shore Diamond and Jewelry on Glen Street in Glen Cove, he didn’t hire anyone. Donaldson liked being a sole proprietor, although he did have his son, James, work with him years later. 

Although he lived in Dix Hills, everyone seemed to know Donaldson in Glen Cove. And he was proficient at networking, so other business owners knew him too. James said his father was like a therapist. He was someone that people sought out to talk to and they always wanted to hear his many stories. 

“He wasn’t like the type of person where you just came in and he tried to sell you something,” Natalie Donaldson, Barry’s daughter-in-law, said. “He really cared about every customer.” 

“I was always in and out of the store helping when I could,” his son recalled. “[But] anytime anyone came through that door they were looking for my dad. I helped him in there more towards the end.”

As Donaldson grew older, he continued to manage the store with the help of his son until Feb. 1, when he was admitted to Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, in Woodbury, for treatment of a heart infection. 

After he spent two and a half weeks at the rehab center he died on Feb. 21, of heart failure. He was 80. 

“He was supposed to come home in about two weeks,” Natalie said. “He never showed any signs that he was going to pass away. He was supposed to make a full recovery from this.” 

“We thought he was coming home,” James said, “and I was going back to work with him.” 

Donaldson was born and raised in Canada with his seven siblings. He came to the United States in the 1970s settling in East Meadow with his wife, Maranna, who he married in 1975. 

Before  Donaldson, became a jeweler, he  had a keen interest in harness racing. “It was a big part of his life before the jewelry store,” James said. “I grew up on Roosevelt Raceway. We traveled throughout the country and Canada. He wasn’t a racer. He was an owner.” 

“He owned a lot of horses and that is actually what brought him to the United States,” his nephew Trevor Donaldson said. “He was involved in the horse business back in the 70s.” 

Donaldson was a family-man, Trevor said. He always looked forward to big family gatherings. When Trevor moved to the United States from Canada it was Donaldson who took him in and later helped his nephew find his first apartment.  

“I was always with him,” Trevor said. “He is considered my second dad. I owe him everything.”

Around 2007, Donaldson was diagnosed with cancer at the back of his tongue. His wife also had cancer then. James and Natalie moved in with Barry and Maranna in East Meadow in 2007 to help. 

After about a year, Donaldson went into remission, but his wife died in 2009. To keep Donaldson company, James got his father a Border Collie they named Buster, which Natalie said was his pride and joy. 

Because James and Natalie’s family were about to grow with the pregnancy of their first child, the couple, along with Donaldson, moved to Dix Hills in 2016. 

Their children, five-year-old Maranna Rose and two-year-old James, were close to their grandfather. 

“His grandchildren were what gave him life after they were born,” Natalie said.

Every night after Donaldson received his last intravenous for the day at the rehab center, he would always talk to his grandchildren, James said, and tell them “I love you.” 

“I feel [worse] for my kids than for me,” James said, “because he was super close with my daughter.” 

A couple days after Donaldson died, James said his son, also named James, found his grandfather’s hat. The two-year-old put it on and said, “Papa Barry’s hat.” 

The opening of North Shore Diamond and Jewelry after Donaldson’s death is still uncertain. James said he is unsure how the store would carry on without his father there because he was the reason why so many people stopped by. As a man of habit, James said, his father would check-in with all of the businesses around the city. Donaldson was more well-known than  James because he usually worked in the back. 

“Even if he was sick and not feeling good, he would not stop talking to people and let them know what’s going on,” James said. “You don’t see stores like that anymore. It was like a mom and pop.”